When I lived in Madrid in the early 1980’s, the wine I drank was mostly table wine. At restaurants and bars–at least the ones I went to–there were two choices: “tinto” or “blanco” (red or white).  One of the few times I heard a specific wine mentioned (besides Rioja) was sometime later, perhaps on a visit to Madrid in the mid- or late-80’s, when a Spanish friend served a bottle of white wine to me and a group of friends saying that it was from Rueda.  He said there were some nice white wines coming from that area.  It was something new for all of us.

Like many wine regions in Spain, Rueda wine-making has come of age in the last 25 years. Yesterday, I participated in a wine tasting event featuring the wines of Rueda. Michael Schachner, the Spain and South America editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine, was the speaker.

WHERE: Rueda is in the Castilla y Aragon region of Spain about an hour and a half northwest of Madrid. With a continental climate (hot summers and cold winters), it is home to the “number one selling Spanish white wine.”

Rueda = white wine

Rueda = white wine

WHITE: Rueda = Verdejo and Verdejo = Rueda.  Almost all of the wine in Rueda is white and most of the is made from the verdejo grape.

WHAT: the wines are crisp, ultra fresh, citrusy and minerally with no oak aging.

WHEN: Rueda wine is meant to be drunk young and fresh—between 6 and 12 months old. So, last year’s September harvest should be drunk this year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Schachner used the expression “one and done” meaning drink it before it is one year old.

HOW MUCH: Rueda wines are inexpensive—they can range from $8 to $20 for a typical Rueda white and up to $30 for a more unusual, barrel aged wine.

The event took place at the Salinas restaurant in Chelsea. And Chef Luis Bollo served up some super delicious tapas to accompany our wine tasting. The blood sausage croquette, the txistorra sausage wrapped in a puff pastry with a bit of sweetness and even the simple Serrano ham on bread with tomatoes and olive oil were so delicious that I want to go back soon to try out the full menu of the restaurant.

Tapas to accompany wines

Tapas to accompany wines

Tasting menu

Tasting menu

The wines we tasted were:

1.  Avelino Vegas
Montespina Sauvignon Blanc 2013

2.  Bodegas Copaboca
Gorgorito Verdejo 2013

3.  Seleccion de Torres
Verdeo Verdejo 2013

4.  Castelo de Medina
Vendimia Seleccionada Verdejo 2012

5.  Javier Sanz Viticultor
Coleccion “V” Malcorta Verdejo Atipico 2013

6.  Bodega El Albar Lurton
Campo Alegre Verdejo 2013

7.  Bodega Emina Rueda
Matarromera Verdejo Limited Edition 25th Anniv. 2012

The first wine was a sauvignon blanc.

The next two wines were typical Rueda–lots of citrus, some pit fruits like apricot and peach, some herbal and spice qualities, some stony minerality and bright acidity. I preferred the Gorgorito–it was the more complex and intense of the two.

The fourth wine sees three months of aging in French oak–it must be old oak–it is still a bright crisp wine, but a little more intense and creamy than wines 1 through 3.

Wine 5 is from a type of vine (“malcorta or “bad cut”) that is not used anymore–but this winery has started making wine with them again.  The wine says “atypical” right in its name–it was my least favorite, so I say don’t bother.

I loved wine #6–lime grapefruit, sage, grass, black pepper, asparagus–but I can’t find any info about it on the web.

And wine 7 was the most different from the rest–it was the only one that had noticeable oak and oxidation–it was nice, but not the same summer, patio drinking wine as the rest.

Oh, and June 12th is Verdejo Day!

Rueda tasting with Michael Schachner

Rueda tasting with Michael Schachner